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The Andrew Koenig Story - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Andrew Koenig Story: Suicide and Stereotypes

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, February 26, 2010

Today’s startling revelation of child actor, Andrew Koenig’s suicide has left millions of fans wondering what could have caused such a tragic event. Here to explain more about stereotyping, depression and suicide is TXA 21 Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Anchor: We know that Andrew Koenig played what many considered a comical character for many years on the 80’s sitcom “Growing Pains.” His family and friends felt that Andrew never moved past the role and often felt “typecast” by those around him. In everyday life, we all deal with being typecast by others. How much does this kind of social “typecasting” contribute to low self-esteem and self-image?

Self Image: The social community is the primary place where people develop their self-image. How well do we play, communicate and learn with our peers has a lot to do with our view of our own adequacy in a variety of social competencies. Unfortunately, the community at large can be cruel and unfair since social perceptions are primarily simple, rigid and unyielding. In childhood, our beliefs about ourselves can become negative and we begin to typecast ourselves negatively. Such belief systems can follow us into adulthood.

Anchor: Is this kind of typecasting increasing?

The Age of Information Overload: We are inundated by too much information and stereotyping others is at an all time high. Unfortunately, these quick, unyielding judgments lack perspective and wisdom and we can label someone unfairly. Andrew may have felt that no one knew or wanted him but rather his character “Boner” on “Growing Pains.”

Rise of the Culture of Narcissism: Modern society is obsessed with individualism and personal expression. We now cultivate images on Facebook and Twitter that are detailed, exhibitionistic and packaged with flattering information. Personalized clothing and lower back tattoos are a physical reminder of just how “unique” some people are. In general, psychologists are noting the rise of a “culture of self-preoccupation” in modern society.

Trying To Make Sense Of It All: As a result of this avalanche of individualism, people are locking down on stereotypes in an effort to just make sense of all this social information. We decide about people more quickly without referencing the context of their behavior or their motivations. Our brains want to categorize and organize all of this new information into nice, neat packages.

Stereotyping and Depression: This increased stereotyping can lead to people losing their sense of themselves and their social role, especially if they have had negative experiences with others. By comparing themselves to others, they continue to assault their own sense of achievement and worth. They disregard other invaluable attributes and accomplishments and descend into clinical depression. Depression flourishes in such an environment and is now at epidemic levels.

Anchor: How does this depression begin?

The origins of depression are complex and are often biochemically generated. However, we do know that depression can come from growing sense of alienation stemming from an over reliance on the opinions of others. We call these acceptance beliefs and they can dominate a personality. Many child stars grow up with lavish praise and they may not develop an accurate view of themselves. They don’t understand that life successes come and go. They can become overly reliant on the approval or affirmation of others since they have not adequately developed a sense of themselves as one who succeeds and fails. They over emphasize performance and success without an accurate appreciation of other virtues.

Anchor: What tips do you have for our viewers who may be worried about depression or even suicide in those around them?

Depression Is Now An Epidemic: Depression has increased tenfold over the last century and strikes a full decade sooner than it did fifty years ago. In fact, The Center for Disease Control now reports that anti-depressants are the most prescribed drugs in America. Here are some warning signs if you are worried:

  • Increase in Intensity or Frequency of Angry Outbursts
  • Increased Withdrawal from Others
  • Increased Need for Sleep, Low Appetite
  • Tired, Sullen, Bored or Disinterested Mood
  • Risk-Taking Behavior
  • Drinking, Drugs, Promiscuous Sexual Activity
  • Inability to Cry or Too Much Tearfulness
  • Denial of Pain: Insistence on Handling Things Himself

Suicide Has Warning Signs: Here are warning signs for suicidal thoughts or tendencies:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to guns, pills or other means.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of ordinary for the person.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or feeling a need to seek revenge.
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking.
  • Feeling trapped, or like there’s no way out of a situation.
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use.
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society.
  • Feeling anxious, agitated or unable to sleep. Or, conversely, sleeping all the time.
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes.
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose of life.

Finally, please take depression and suicide very seriously. If you are concerned about either of these issues in a loved one, seek help immediately from a psychologist.

For more information on this and Dr. Gearing, please visit www.gearingup.com.

Sources:

The National Mental Health Information Center

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

"Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Tiger Woods Press Conference - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 19, 2010

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger Woods Sex Scandal

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, February 19, 2010

After three months of silence, Tiger Woods finally discussed the sex scandal that has overshadowed his marriage to Swedish model Elin Nordegren. But many of us are now wondering if this is “too little too late.” Can Tiger once again win the confidence of his wife and his fans?

So how well did Tiger handle himself in today’s new conference? Was he effective in apologizing to his wife and his fans? Did he pull it off?

Public apologies about such important events are always difficult to pull off due to our own cynicism about how genuine they are. But Tiger seemed to deliver both a heartfelt and a truthful review of the facts. He expressed remorse, a capable understanding of the trauma he has inflicted on everyone and an acknowledgment of the severe consequences for his irresponsible behavior. This live apology was especially difficult for a man who is as exacting and precise in his public behavior. For now, he seems to have delivered an effective apology. It will be a matter of time to see if he continues his marital fidelity.

But lets shift away from Tiger and focus on how Elin is doing in this situation.

Trauma is Lack of Power: Trauma is a condition of powerlessness and when it is inflicted within a marriage, it is especially devastating psychologically. Trauma is magnified exponentially when it inflicted by the spouse.

Life Rearranged: Infidelity “rearranges” life for the person who has been betrayed. When you are reeling from infidelity, previous formulas about life no longer apply. Trust is shot, the past and present are redefined and the future is an uncertain road that stretches on into oblivion. Your partner becomes someone “you no longer know.”

Isolated and Alone: Infidelity trauma is especially difficult especially when a celebrity is involved. The couple usually decides to withdraw into silence, as the affair is played out on the public stage. The betrayed partner is denied access to the social support of others and the secrecy deepens the feeling of disconnection and isolation.

Marital Crime: Infidelity is a marital “crime” and systematic concealment and falsification characterizes every affair. If you don’t lie, you can’t cheat. When you are the recipient of lying and infidelity, you have to go back and rewrite all of your past and present experiences. You begin to doubt your own perceptions since reality has now been redefined by these discoveries.

Especially in the case of infidelity, the situation can go from bad to worse rather quickly.

There are specific factors but there is a simple and direct correlation between the severity of the trauma and the effect on the partner.

The impact on the betrayed partner depends on these factors:

  • How Long the Affair Lasted
  • The Number of People Involved (number of partners or the birth of a child)
  • Who was Involved (Best Friends versus Strangers)
  • The Level of Falsification and Concealment
  • How Long It Took to Discover (Affairs that involve incremental disclosure are much harder to handle. Such disclosures affect the basic feelings of control, safety and predictability in the offended partner. Overwhelming anxiety increases as the progressive discoveries are made.)

Who usually leaves after an affair?

Without a doubt, the one who is betrayed is more likely to ultimately leave the marriage. A profound discontent seems to disrupt their faith and allegiance to the partner and over time, they may become disillusioned. Although they often agree to stay in the marriage initially, they usually do not get the right treatment for trauma which sets them up to gradually detach from the marriage. The erosion of affection is a progression, not an event, and many people—including the spouse who has cheated-- are shocked when the betrayed partner finally calls it quits.

What about Tiger’s fans? Can they ever forgive him?

Separate the Man from the Image: Celebrities are just people and it is important to understand that Tiger made a series of terrible decisions systematically. He was his own worst enemy and will ultimately pay heavily for his behavior.

Self-Indulgence Overran Good Judgment: Understand exactly what happened. The explanations for cheating can be complex but they always boil down to one basic reason—we cheat when our emotions overrun our better judgment. Tiger allowed his self-indulgence to define him repeatedly. He was responsible regardless of any other issues such as addiction that may be present.

Deception is Hard to See: Although it is inexcusable, the entitlements and security of celebrities facilitates this kind of self-destructive behavior. The irresponsibly of the affair stands in stark contrast to every other part of that person’s public life. This was especially true of Tiger who was a public paragon of virtue and self-discipline.

Rules Don’t Apply to Me: Although it is no excuse, Tiger’s behavior reflects the social narcissism that defines us. We just don’t hold people to the same standards we used to observe. Affairs flourish in the current era of epidemic narcissism. We no longer value loyalty, sacrifice and duty as much as we did a generation ago. Tiger is the latest example of this erosion in values.

Finally, the ultimate question: how does Tiger win back his wife?

If the trauma has not been too severe and if the couple still possesses a deep affection for one another, it is wise to move forward. Marital outcomes can be positive in many of these cases. They need to hire the best team of psychologists who are specialists in trauma recovery to guides them through this process. They must not try to do it on their own. It is impossible to be objective in the wake of such strong emotions.

If you stay together, here are the initial steps you must take:

Reframe the Affair as Traumatic Event: The couple must view all aspects of infidelity as a distinct. The betrayed party may well be experiencing a posttraumatic stress disorder. The couple must reframe infidelity anxiety within a trauma model.

Responsibility for the Affair: The full responsibility for the affair must be fully assumed by the betrayer. Although there may have been mitigating circumstances, the decision to cheat was ultimately made by the betrayer. Remorse must be repeatedly expressed and demonstrated.

Safety and Predictability: This is when the betrayer must step up. He must establish a sense of safety, predictability and emotional containment by pledging fidelity, openness to all questions and constant accountability. The ultimate responsibility for transparency is with the partner who inflicted the pain.

Story of The Affair: Together the partners must create a clear story of the events of the affair, the decisions that were made and how the affair or affairs were ended.

Mental Health Issues Addressed: Any sexual or chemical addictions or issues with mood disorders in the wandering partner must be addressed and resolved.

Reemergence as a New Couple: Redefining ourselves as stronger, wiser and more engaged with one another are all hallmark strengths of people who survive infidelity. There is an abiding ability to forgive and to remember the unique aspects of the marriage that are worth fighting for.

Sources:

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, by Judith Herman, 1997.

Principles of Trauma Therapy: A Guide to Symptom Evaluation and Treatment by John N. Briere and Catherine Scott, 2006

Mass Murderers - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mass Murderers: Why People Kill Those Around Them

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, February 18th, 2010

Today’s shocking news of a private plane being flown into the Echelon Building in Austin is yet another example of mass murder and it’s tragic consequences. The FBI has identified Joseph Stack, a local resident, as the person likely flying the plane.

Although this may appear to be an instance of “domestic terrorism,” strictly speaking, Joseph Stack would be classified as a “mass murderer.”

The differences between a terrorist and a mass murderer are important since they have vastly different motivations and strategies. A terrorist’s sole intention is to inflict terror and to use terror to manipulate those around them. They most often profess to have a political or ideological agenda. Mr. Stack reportedly was acting alone and his lengthy note does not express terror for political or other gain. Mass murderers intend to inflict suffering and death on as many people as possible—a lethal strike—and may have no articulated agenda except to inflict death.

Here are the different characteristics of a mass murderer:

Sense of Revenge: Mass murderers kill for revenge. They are convinced that someone or something has wronged them, and their acts of violence are retribution against others. This kind of “punishment mentality” stems from a pattern of systematic grandiose thinking and narcissistic tendencies.

Grandiose Thinking: Grandiose thinking is a reflection of a narcissistic personality disorder, where a person believes that they are special and infallible. When they perceive an abuse, they overreact and lash out. Such revenge can become violent as we saw in the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

Scale and Single Event: Mass murderers have a specific target and want to take down as many people as they can. They often realize that their murderous acts will most likely be the last thing that they ever do. They plan to inflict as much suffering as possible. Reportedly, this pilot flew his plane into the second story of building housing hundreds of government employees. In a delusional mind, this was a manly exit and a final statement of revenge and anger.

You are most likely wondering, “Why would someone engage in such irrational behavior?”

Highly Regressed Thinking: Clearly, he was not thinking with a clear mind. His online diary indicates fragmented thinking, cognitive distortions, delusional ideation and paranoid thinking.

Normal Façade: It is important to remember that severely mentally ill people can assume a normal façade. This is especially true when there is paranoid ideation of any kind. They may harbor delusional beliefs that they carefully hide from others. Skillful at promoting one version of themselves to the public, they tend to engage in a private world of fantasy, defend themselves from perceived threats and even commit violent murders, as in this case.

Pervasive Distrust: The essential pattern is a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others. They assume that someone—and individual or a group (as in this case) will harm or exploit them even if there is no evidence to support their argument. Reality simply disappears.

Under the Radar: They generally do not come to the attention of the mental health system since they consider themselves perfectly normal. They fly under the proverbial radar.

If you are worried about the potential violence of those around you, here are some warning signs to look out for:

People need to know that forensic psychologists argue that mass murders come with warning signs. There is a predictive characteristics to these crimes including the following:

Typology of Language: Meaning and perspective behind words are the chief indicators of murderous intention. When someone is planning to commit violence, they tend to use one of these types of words or statements.

  • Rejection
  • Entitlement
  • Grandiosity
  • Attention Seeking
  • Revenge
  • Attachment (Irrational Behaviors like Stalking)

Reasoning for Murder: When someone is about to commit a violent act they perceive four issues in a justifying light. They believe that they have justification, they have no alternatives for the outcome they want, the consequences for their actions are acceptable, and that they have the resources and the abilities necessary to carry out mass murder.

Justification of Violence: While they are planning their action, they fully believe that their actions are justified and often deserved. They are “setting it right” and punishing those who deserve retribution. They are fully convinced that not only is violence an acceptable and only way, it is the right way.

For more information about Dr. Gearing please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

“The Gift of Fear”, Gavin de Becker

“Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings” by Katherine Newman, Cybelle Fox, David Harding, Jal Mehta and Wen

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger & Elin Woods - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger Woods Sex Scandal

TXA 21 News

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, February 18, 2010

After three months of silence, Tiger Woods finally discussed the sex scandal that has overshadowed his marriage to Swedish model Elin Nordegren. But many of us are now wondering if this is “too little too late.” Can Tiger once again win the confidence of his wife and his fans?

How has this scandal affected Tiger's wife, Elin?

Trauma is Lack of Power: Trauma is a condition of powerlessness and when it is inflicted within a marriage, it is especially devastating psychologically. Trauma is magnified exponentially when it inflicted by the spouse.

Life Rearranged: Infidelity “rearranges” life for the person who has been betrayed. When you are reeling from infidelity, previous formulas about life no longer apply. Trust is shot, the past and present are redefined and the future is an uncertain road that stretches on into oblivion. Your partner becomes someone “you no longer know.”

Isolated and Alone: Infidelity trauma is especially difficult especially when a celebrity is involved. The couple usually decides to withdraw into silence, as the affair is played out on the public stage. The betrayed partner is denied access to the social support of others and the secrecy deepens the feeling of disconnection and isolation.

Marital Crime: Infidelity is a marital “crime” and systematic concealment and falsification characterizes every affair. If you don’t lie, you can’t cheat. When you are the recipient of lying and infidelity, you have to go back and rewrite all of your past and present experiences. You begin to doubt your own perceptions since reality has now been redefined by these discoveries.

As mistress after mistress have come to light, one has to wonder - how bad can it get? Here are some factors that can make infidelity worse:

The impact on the betrayed partner depends on these factors:

  • How Long the Affair Lasted
  • The Number of People Involved (number of partners or the birth of a child)
  • Who was Involved (Best Friends versus Strangers)
  • The Level of Falsification and Concealment
  • How Long It Took to Discover (Affairs that involve incremental disclosure are much harder to handle. Such disclosures affect the basic feelings of control, safety and predictability in the offended partner. Overwhelming anxiety increases as the progressive discoveries are made.)

Who usually leaves after an affair (especially of this magnitude)?

Without a doubt, the one who is betrayed is more likely to ultimately leave the marriage. A profound discontent seems to disrupt their faith and allegiance to the partner and over time, they may become disillusioned. Although they often agree to stay in the marriage initially, they usually do not get the right treatment for trauma which sets them up to gradually detach from the marriage. The erosion of affection is a progression, not an event, and many people—including the spouse who has cheated-- are shocked when the betrayed partner finally calls it quits.

You are most likely wondering how Tiger's fans and family are supposed to ever forgive him.

Separate the Man from the Image: Celebrities are just people and it is important to understand that Tiger made a series of terrible decisions systematically. He was his own worst enemy and will ultimately pay heavily for his behavior.

Self-Indulgence Overran Good Judgment: Understand exactly what happened. The explanations for cheating can be complex but they always boil down to one basic reason—we cheat when our emotions overrun our better judgment. Tiger allowed his self-indulgence to define him repeatedly. He was responsible irregardless of any other issues such as addiction that may be present.

Deception is Hard to See: Although it is inexcusable, the entitlements and security of celebrities facilitates this kind of self-destructive behavior. The irresponsibly of the affair stands in stark contrast to every other part of that person’s public life. This was especially true of Tiger who was a public paragon of virtue and self-discipline.

Rules Don’t Apply to Me: Although it is no excuse, Tiger’s behavior reflects the social narcissism that defines us. We just don’t hold people to the same standards we used to observe. Affairs flourish in the current era of epidemic narcissism. We no longer value loyalty, sacrifice and duty as much as we did a generation ago. Tiger is the latest example of this erosion in values.

Finally, the ultimate question: How does Tiger win his wife back?

If the trauma has not been too severe and if the couple still possesses a deep affection for one another, it is wise to move forward. Marital outcomes can be positive in many of these cases. They need to hire the best team of psychologists who are specialists in trauma recovery to guides them through this process. They must not try to do it on their own. It is impossible to be objective in the wake of such strong emotions.

If you stay together, here are the initial steps you must take:

Reframe the Affair as Traumatic Event: The couple must view all aspects of infidelity as a distinct. The betrayed party may well be experiencing a posttraumatic stress disorder. The couple must reframe infidelity anxiety within a trauma model.

Responsibility for the Affair: The full responsibility for the affair must be fully assumed by the betrayer. Although there may have been mitigating circumstances, the decision to cheat was ultimately made by the betrayer. Remorse must be repeatedly expressed and demonstrated.

Safety and Predictability: This is when the betrayer must step up. He must establish a sense of safety, predictability and emotional containment by pledging fidelity, openness to all questions and constant accountability. The ultimate responsibility for transparency is with the partner who inflicted the pain.

Story of The Affair: Together the partners must create a clear story of the events of the affair, the decisions that were made and how the affair or affairs were ended.

Mental Health Issues Addressed: Any sexual or chemical addictions or issues with mood disorders in the wandering partner must be addressed and resolved.

Reemergence as a New Couple: Redefining ourselves as stronger, wiser and more engaged with one another are all hallmark strengths of people who survive infidelity. There is an abiding ability to forgive and to remember the unique aspects of the marriage that are worth fighting for.

Sources:

"Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror," by Judith Herman, 1997.

"Principles of Trauma Therapy: A Guide to Symptom Evaluation and Treatment" by John N. Briere and Catherine Scott, 2006

Suicide and Children - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 22, 2010

Suicide and Children

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

January 22, 2010, TXA 21 News

Today’s story about the apparent suicide of a nine-year-old Colony boy has once again raised the issue of depression and suicide in children.

Why do children kill themselves?

Suicides of Children Are Increasing: Although childhood suicide is relatively rare, it is increasing. For children under age 15, about 1-2 kids out of 100,000 will commit suicide. For kids between 15-19, the rate jumps to 11 out of 100,000.

Fourth Leading Cause of Death: Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10-14 and the third leading cause of death for teenagers between 15-19.

Values Change: In general, our society is more narcissistic and more callous toward individual concerns. Troubled children are often overlooked in a society concerned with achievement, a struggling economy and overworked parents. The child in a family with busy, overworked parents is often marginalized and neglected. Depression flourishes in such situations and the child gives up all hope.

Here’s what makes a child more likely to commit suicide:

Depression is Epidemic: If a child has clinical depression, he is seven times more likely to try suicide. Depression is at epidemic levels now and strikes a full decade sooner than it did a generation ago. Severe depression recurs in about half of those who have had it once and since it strikes so early in life, there are higher rates of reoccurance.

Motivations for Suicide are Complex: The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex but the main motivations include a desire to escape depression and hopelessness, debilitating anxiety or a situation they regard as being hopeless such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the more likely it is that the suicide is connected to interpersonal conflicts.

But do bullied kids have higher rates of depression?

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Bullied kids have a much higher rate of depression and the effects linger into adulthood. Bullying victims are much more likely to think about suicide. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. We know that 34% of elementary students are bullied and that bullying peaks in middle school. It is a group activity with a mob mentality that is crushing to kids who are victimized.

You may be wondering what happens to kids psychologically who are bullied or who bully others?

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety. However, research reveals that the act of bullying actually claims three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses. Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and alienation from school and the community. We find that witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and allow it to happen without a second thought. The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

What happens to the parents who lose their children through suicide?

This kind of loss is emotionally “disfiguring.” They will most certainly experience a post traumatic stress disorder that will need to be treated. When a child dies, the trauma lingers for years and de-regulates the parents’ emotional and cognitive functioning. Traumatic bereavement includes guilt, devastating depression and a lingering sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Here’s what you can do about bullying:

Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence. This can lead to tragic consequences in the future.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential to stop bullies for good.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about bullying. Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

Educate yourself about the signs of depression:

  • Talking About Dying: Any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself or other types of self-harm
  • Recent Loss: The loss of someone through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self confidence, self esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed.
  • Change in Personality—sad, withdrawn, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
  • Change in Behavior: Cannot concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
  • Change in Eating Habits: Loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
  • Fear of losing control: Acting erratically, harming self or others
  • Low self esteem: feelings of worthlessness, shame, overwhelming guilt , self hatred, “everyone would be better without me.”
  • No hope for the future: Believing that things will never get better, that nothing will ever change.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Psychological Association

The National Association of School Counselors

American Association of Suicidology

Optimistic Women and Heart Disease - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Optimistic Women And Heart Disease

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Jan 21, 2010

Twice as many women die from cardiovascular disease as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. Now a new study from the American Heart Association shows that women with sunny outlooks may have better heart health and live longer.

But how does “seeing the glass half full” protect you from developing heart disease?

The Mind Controls the Body: This study illustrates once again the interrelationship of the mind, i.e. attitude and its direct effect on the body. Of the 97,000 women studied, optimistic women were 14% less likely to die over eight years than their pessimistic counterparts. They were 9% less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 30% less likely to develop heart complications.

Well-Being and Optimism: Optimism infuses the mind and the body with a sense of well-being and self-esteem during the good times and serves as a buffer to disaster when adversity hits. Your body is not constantly bathing in stress hormones and your immune system remains hardier and unchallenged.

Better Health Habits: We also know that optimistic women have better health habits. They rest and exercise more, they eat better and they are less likely to smoke or to be obese. They have lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. An optimistic woman is simply less likely to stress herself out and develop these chronic health issues.

If you don’t think that a pessimistic outlook is a problem, you should reconsider:

Negative women pay a distinct price for their reactivity in their physical and psychological well-being. If you are stressing out all the time, you will slowly destroy your immune system and you will die at an earlier age. Women live close to their emotions and they affect all aspects of our lives. The more negative you become, the more depression and stress increases. Creativity disappears, problem solving slows and social relationships dwindle. Efforts to improve your circumstances decrease along with your physical and emotional health. Clearly, this study shows us that optimism is a disease prevention attitude.

Beyond these two groups, there is another more specialized population – “cynical hostility.”

The study found that women with “cynical hostility” (having negative, hostile thoughts toward others along with a general mistrust) were 16% more likely to die during the eight-year time span of the study. Other studies have shown that cynical women are 29% more likely to suffer a premature death and these findings hold even after classical risk factors are factored in (smoking, obesity, etc). The bottom line is that negative attitudes alienate other people and ruin your physical health in the long run. Strong social ties are a health prevention strategy, especially for women. People with high social involvement have the lowest mortality rates while isolated people have the highest rates.

Are you worried? Here’s how to change your outlook to avoid the penalties of pessimism and maximize your life!

There are a couple of major strategies you can implement immediately:

Inventory of Friends: Assess the negativity level of your friends. Emotions are contagious and one negative person in your life can be optimism “killer.” Toxic friends are bad for your health and they need to be either seen in measured doses or completely ushered from your life.

Increase Your Emotional Muscle: Emotionally resilient people tend to specialize in emotional self-control. They face adversity with optimism and don’t wallow in setbacks that are inevitable parts of life. Resilient people tend to do the following:

Permanence: They interpret good things as permanent and bad things as temporary.

Pervasive: When good things happen, they celebrate all of life and infuse themselves and other with good cheer. When adversity hits, they do not view their entire lives as difficult and defeated.

Personal: Well-adjusted people take responsibility for their mistakes but they are realistic in assessing self-blame. They do not blame themselves automatically when adversity hits, but focus on what they can do to change the outcome for the better.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia, please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

"The Resilience Factor" by Dr. Karen Reivich and Dr. Andrew Shatte

"Mind Body Health" by Brent Hafen, Keith Karren, Kathryn Frandsen and N. Lee Smith

Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association

Electronics May Overtake Your Children - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Electronic Media Can Overtake Your Children

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

CBS 11 News, January 20, 2010

Are you worried about your child spending too much time on Facebook, playing video games, or texting? Well, you may have good reason.

On average, kids spend more than 53 hours a week on electronic media according to a new study of 2000 kids. Compared with peers a decade ago, young people spend 79 more minutes of free time each day:

  • Listening to Music
  • Watching TV and movies
  • Playing video games
  • Hanging out on line

Most kids multitask while doing all of these things (i.e., play video games while listening to music).

Your kids have become big business in the land of advertising.

In 1983, advertisers spent an average of $100 million in marketing to kids. Now they spend $17 billion- an increase of 170%. Kids between ages of 8-12 years old spend $30 billion a year on video games.

And that’s great – children have a market share and are more empowered now than they ever have been. But there is a downside:

Your Brain Needs to be Stimulated: These activities take the place of face time activities. Electronic media does not replace the medicine of direct social interaction. The brain needs to be stimulated with conversation, social nuances and laughter. The continuous flow of conversation and shared activities activate numerous beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters.

Choosing Isolation: In a world of electronics, teenagers and people over age eighty are the loneliest people on earth. Teenagers choose to seclude themselves in their phones and computers, shutting out their family and maybe even friends. In extreme cases, games and other media (such as the extremely popular “World of Warcraft”) have been show to ruin lives and tear families apart.

Friends Are Like Medicine: They buffer the effects of stress. The stress of socially active people is buffered up to seven times. Having and interacting with friends can literally predict someone’s amount of brain activity and cognitive function.

Our world is more connected than ever – thanks to smart phones, Wi-Fi, and social media.

Although these can be an excellent tool, too much of anything is never good. Make sure to watch your dependence levels and try taking a break every once in a while. Who knows? You may like the world outside your door.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia Gearing, please visit www.gearingup.com.

The Phenomenon of Mature Women - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It’s Complicated—The Phenomenon of Mature Women

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, January 12, 2010

“It’s Complicated,” the popular new Meryl Streep movie is once again illustrating how older women are taking the world by storm.

Here’s why so many women relate to Meryl Streep’s character:

Social Revolution: Meryl Streep’s character is a prime example of the social revolution that is sweeping the nation. Women have redefined aging. No longer are we held to antiquated definitions of attractiveness—youth, fertility, and tight skin. At midlife, we move into our most productive years, both personally and professionally.

New Power: Now, just like men, we acquire power and allure by achievement. Our accomplishments, complexity and history are now defined as assets rather than as liabilities. This movie showed that an older woman could trump a younger women on the social playing field. We can partner with men of assorted ages—young and old— or we can play the field solo if we prefer. Partnering is an option, not a mandate.

New Timeline, New Dreams: The MacArthur Foundation reports that by 2050, life expectancy for women will rise to up to 94 years. We now regard the 50s and 60s as “middle” age and a passage of life that is full of adventure, reinvention and excellence. Streep’s character reminded us of the empowerment that comes with this stage of life.

Meryl’s character entertains multiple suitors within the film, which begs the question: do women become more passionate as they age?

More Sensual with the Years: Women become more sensual as they mature and this is especially true of boomer women who led the sexual revolution. They are more at ease with their bodies, enjoy more self-acceptance and have less attachment to social definitions of beauty. They know their bodies better and they take their intimate needs more seriously.

Passion Begins in the Mind: Passion begins in a woman’s mind and it is a product of her self-confidence and experience. As her thinking become more sophisticated, her passion increases and she may enjoy sensuality more. If she is married, she invests more deeply in her partner and is often willing to be fully physically and emotionally vulnerable, often for the first time. If she is single, she chooses her partners more carefully and is a wiser evaluator of other’s intentions.

This trend of empowered older women was made possible by the economic opportunities.

Money Talks: The economic empowerment of women over the last fifty years was certainly a facilitator of these social trends. No longer dependent on the support of a man, millions of women crafted spectacular careers and took the reins of their fate into their own hands. Their social and psychological transformation accelerated as their incomes increased.

Global Economy Shifted Women: The shift in the global economy has had a lot to do with the increase in female power. Brains count more than brawn now. As manufacturing decreased, the service industries increased and women rose to the challenge. We have fared especially well in the recession and now comprise over 50%of the labor force.

Education and Innovation: Women are more educated and enjoy the modern innovations in communication and domestic technology that make it possible to work outside of the home. Washboards have been replaced by motherboards and women have derived untold freedoms from a world that increasingly rewards them for smarts, drive and persistence.

Ladies, here’s what you can do to be maximally empowered in midlife:

Social Ties are Cheap Medicine: Women have to remember how you age is often under their control. Stay connected with your friends since studies show that social ties are essential to longevity. In fact, a study by the MacArthur Foundation reported that “ the influence of genetics shrinks proportionately as you get older, while social and physical habits become increasingly integral to your state of health—both mental and physical.”

Attitude is Everything: Optimism pays off and a recently release study of 97,000 women older than 50 reported that optimists were 9% less likely to develop heart disease and 14% less likely to die from it.

Shifting to a Brighter Outlook: Take the following three steps:

1.) Commit to a Cause Greater than Yourself

2.) Control the factors you can influence and disregard the rest.

3.) Challenge yourself to view setbacks as surmountable and problems as solvable.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia, please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

“Researchers ask why optimism is associated with health, pessimism with disease” The Washington Post, January 12, 2010, Carolyn Butler

“Women and Work: We Did It!” The Economist, January 2010

“Sex and the Seasoned Woman, Pursuing the Passionate Life” by Gail Sheehy, 2006

Parental Alienation At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Parental Alienation During The Holidays

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Dec 17, 2009

During the holidays, millions of children from divorced families will be spending time with their parents separately. But what happens when a parent engages in parental alienation--a systematic campaign to discredit the other parent and alienate the child?

Parental alienation is becoming a major problem for American children.

Systematic Campaign of Alienation: Parental alienation is a systematic campaign of character assassination. It is not gender related or age related. One parent is determined to alienate the child’s affections toward the other parent or toward a grandparent. It is most prevalent in child custody cases and it is worse at the holidays as parents have increased access to their children.

Spans the Range: Parental Alienation spans the range from outright malicious intent, legal battles and reckless accusations to careless, self serving comments that undermine the child’s view of their parent.

Emotional Abuse of Children: Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse of the child. As one expert said “Bad mouth your ex and you simultaneously bad mouth your child.” (Richard Warshak, Ph.D.)

Legitimized by Self Absorbed Culture: Most divorces involve pain and suffering and parental alienation flourishes in a family culture of dissent and conflict. However, the epidemic of narcissism that has defined our country in recent years legitimizes winning at any cost. Savage and unethical behavior is justified even if it involves waging war against an innocent party.

Parents engage in parental alienation because of the following reasons:

Revenge: There are complex reasons to explain this behavior but all explanations boil down to one principle reason. People receive secondary gain from inflicting pain on people they believe have wronged them. The mind of the child becomes the battlefield for revenge.

Child is Perceived as a Possession: For some parents, adequate boundaries with their children are absent. They child is perceived as an extension of themselves. They inflict parental alienation on the other parent to banish him or her so they can have the child to themselves.

Compensating for Inadequacy and Guilt: Parents may try to resolve their low self-esteem and sense of failure by reinforcing their belief that they are the best parent. Posturing as the superior parent makes them feel better even if it is at the expense of their child. They have no conscience about the suffering of the child and the other parent.

Children suffer from parental alienation in the following ways:

Brainwashed by Lies: These kids are basically brainwashed and now regard their targeted parent as the enemy or as a worthless afterthought. This kind of betrayal can occur even in the most tender and loving relationships. Tragically, such division can last for years.

Contempt, Rejection and Disrespect: They show contempt, rejection, and disrespect for the targeted parent. These comments are often irrational, insulting and traumatizing to the targeted parent.

Rehearsed Answers: They have been taught to orient to the controlling needs of the alienating parent at all costs. They are often unable to specify why they dislike the targeted parent or they exaggerate faults of their parent to justify their rejection. Their comments parrot the alienator’s words and feelings.

Long Term Damage: There is minimal data on the long-term effects of such alienation on kids. However, we do know that the earlier the separation from a parent, the more traumatic it is for the child. The basic tenants of loving relationships—trust, loyalty, and forgiveness are never learned and the child may struggle for a lifetime because of these experiences.

Parents can protect themselves and their children by taking the following steps:

Educate Yourself: Parental alienation can be an elusive phenomenon to prove especially in a highly intense forum such as child custody. There are several books with great resources that are “must reads” for parents (see below).

Remain Calm: Understand that you have been systematically undermined and that you are taking every step to remediate the situation. Focus on what you can control and don’t stress about other factors. Do not lose your temper, reject your child or insult your ex in front of your child.

Work with Great Experts: Hire a psychologist and a lawyer who are proven experts in parental alienation. The therapist must acknowledge the massive psychological impact such alienation has on the child and targeted parent. Your attorney needs to possess a solid understanding of this type of emotional abuse and the substantial legal skills to protect your child and your interests.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia please go to www.gearingup.com

Resources:

"Divorce Poison," Dr. Richard Warshak

"The Custody Revolution," by Dr. Richard Warshak

"Divorce Casualties: Understanding Parental Alienation," Dr. Douglas Darnall

Is Tiger A Sex Addict? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is Tiger A Sex Addict?

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Dec 10, 2009

With the growing number of mistresses being identified in the Tiger Woods scandal (nine so far), many are wondering if the legendary golfer may be a sex addict. Why do so many famous men suffer with a compulsion to cheat and is it because of sexual addiction?

America is reeling from the barrage of new disclosures from former affair partners of the famed golfer. Now there are whispers that Tiger may actually be a sex addict. This begs the obvious question - what is sexual addiction?

Sexual addiction is a persistent and escalating pattern of sexual behaviors acted out despite potential negative consequences to the self and others (Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health). Secrecy, systematic betrayal and a sense of entitlement to using other people sexually are all hallmarks of sexual addiction.

Whenever you see any kind of irrational, highly self-destructive behavior that just doesn’t add up, be on the lookout for some kind of addictive behavior behind it.

As an addiction progresses, there are graduated levels of importance in the addict’s life:

Here are the general stages of addiction:

Internal Shift: The addict begins to turn toward behavior that is relieving of their stress or changes their mood to the euphoric or exhilarating. The highly destructive aspect of the addictive behavior is minimized or denied (“I can quit anytime I want”) even though such behavior is a direct assault on the faith and trust of others around them.

Lifestyle Change: A behavioral dependency on the addiction begins to enter the picture. His life is altered to accommodate the addiction even if he becomes reckless and self-destructive. He moves deeper into the sabotaging behavior.

Life Breakdown: The addiction has now taken over. The individual builds his life around the emotional release from acting out destructively. At this point, nothing matters to the addict but the acquisition of the addictive object. The obsession with the addiction causes a trance state. People don’t matter, commitments are broken and honesty isn’t even a part of the conversation.

It is important to differentiate the motivations for sexual addiction:

Bio-chemically Depressed: Depression can cause irrational, self-destructive behavior in individuals (particularly men) who often do not recognize their depression or their errant behavior. Turning to sex is a direct effort to escape their pain, frustration and helplessness. They experience a numbing of emotional connection and restructure their behavior as they begin to serve the addiction first and foremost.

Personality Disorders: Many people with chronic developmental and personality disorders such as narcissistic or socio-pathic personalities are prime candidates for sexual addiction. To them, all people are a means to an end and they are entitled to the shameless sexual exploitation of others.

Unfortunately, narcissistic celebrities are abundant and it is only a matter of time for many of them before some sort of addiction enters the picture.

With the recent rash of cheating men in the new, you may be wondering — are men more vulnerable to sexual addiction than women are?

Both genders can become addicted to sex but show highly different patterns:

Sexually addicted men are often attracted to high status positions such as entertainment or politics where they have an endless supply of beautiful women willing to engage. They shamelessly exploit women, idealize the next new girl until she loses her novelty and then throw her away as they pursue for a new conquest.

Women show a much different pattern. They often substitute sex for love and fidelity and become the willing partners to exploitative men. They begin to dress seductively and to augment every aspect of their physical appearance. Their seduction of the idealized partner and the admiration they derive become the addiction. They remain dependent upon the attention of the narcissistic, demanding partner who is now in control.

However, there is hope for recovery from sexual addiction:

It is quite possible if there is an absolute commitment to change and to getting the appropriate help. Since addictions hijack the brain chemistry and the judgment of otherwise cogent people, specialists in the addiction field who are experienced, savvy and realistic about the long road to recovery are the best treatment professionals. Twelve-step recovery programs are essential parts of treatment for sexual addiction along with intense individual therapy focusing on developing a new, empowered self firmly rooted in reality and concern for others.


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